When Reality Intrudes on Resilience

Despite continued death and destruction, the Syrian people have shown incredible resilience. In conflicts as tragic as the one in Syria, hope for a better future is essential to survival.

But what happens when optimism dissipates and hope fades? More than three years into the Syrian crisis, civilians are increasingly targeted by indiscriminate barrel bomb strikes, and recent reports indicate renewed use of chemical weapons by the regime. Syrians are being tortured, raped, starved, and imprisoned on a daily basis while the world stands by and wrings its collective hands.

One of the Syrian doctors in Physicians for Human Rights’ training program, who works in a hospital where victims of the carnage seek treatment, sadly shares, “I have no more tears.” She and her colleagues live with the anxiety and fear of being targeted because of the vital work they do. Despite her strength, competence, and dedication to her people, this long war has taken a toll, testing her faith in humanity. She simply cannot understand why the rest of the world refuses to intervene to stop the suffering, a sentiment shared by Syrians and human rights defenders alike. Another Syrian colleague recently updated his status on Facebook: “There is no light at the end of the tunnel.” His quote paralyzed me, knowing that I was powerless in responding to such a hopeless statement from someone who must confront the realities of civil war every day.

Despite these moments of despair, Syrians persevere with remarkable determination, focusing not only on their own survival, but also supporting their fellow Syrians and preparing to rebuild their country after the conflict has ended. The importance placed on family and community contributes to the Syrians people’s ability to look forward even while embroiled in conflict. Every new birth is greeted with incredible joy, regardless of tight finances, displaced family, and an uncertain future. Living in the present, welcoming a new life, and believing in a better future are essential to keeping hope alive.

Occasionally, a beautiful story provides for renewed optimism. Last week was the birthday of a friend’s brother who was killed in the Syrian conflict. He would have turned 22 years old on April 17. On that day, which otherwise would have been a day of mourning, a new baby was born into the family, returning that date to a day of celebration. While the baby will never know the uncle for whom he was named, his family will ensure that he learns about the brave man who was willing to die for his beliefs and for his country.

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